March 21, 2021 8:54:11 pm
The Bombay High Court recently directed the state Forest Department to respond to a writ petition filed by two Pune residents and pet lovers challenging its decision to prohibit people from bringing their pet dogs on leash to the city’s popular hills/tekdis.
A division bench of Justice S J Kathawalla and Justice Milind N Jadhav on March 15 passed an order on the plea filed by Sharmila Karve and Pallavi Kulkarni, pet lovers and owners from Pune, challenging the January 2021 decision of the Forest Department that prohibited entry of pet dogs on the hills in Pune as per Maharashtra Forest Rules, 2014.
They argued through advocates Kalyani Tulankar, Ajinkya Udane and Tanaji Mhatugade that the petitioners reside in flats along with their families and pets, wherein the pets do not have sufficient space to walk around. Pet dogs are taken around their place of residence for daily walks and are regularly taken to Vetal Tekdi behind ILS Law college, Pune, for brisk walks and exercise.
The petitioners submitted that on January 4, 2021, they came across a news report and were shocked to know that the forest department officers had announced prohibition of pet dogs from being taken on a walk on the hills in Pune.
As per the petitioners’ lawyers, the forest department had issued undated note giving reasons for the decision, which included that the hills of Pune are home to peacocks, hares, snakes, birds and other animals and that citizens taking pet dogs for morning walks is dangerous for other birds and animals as pet animals may cause disease among such ‘wild fauna’ residing on the hills.
The plea challenged rule 9 (1) (i) of the Maharashtra Forest Rules, 2014, that prohibited trespassing of pet animals from reserved and protected forests and argued the same was invalid as the state government had no powers to prohibit acts other than those enlisted in the Indian Forest Act, therefore the impugned rule was not applicable to pet dogs on leash.
After hearing submissions, the court directed the forest department to file an affidavit in reply to the petition and allowed Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) to be joined as party respondent to the case.
Seeking the presence of the concerned officer of the PMC before it, the court posted further hearing to March 23.
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